Oh god. Norman Mailer’s Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the Republic and Democratic Conventions of 1968 just reminded me of how nervous I am about the weak and horrible writings that will likely rise from Cleveland journalists once they attempt to cover the 2016 Republic Convention this July.
But moving on to Mailer.
Oh wait. Before we move on I just want to add that I always approach these blogs with a dizzying amount of hesitancy and discomfort because I’ve been assigned to “pose in-depth reactions to the assigned texts,” which means some of what I’m writing is reactionary, and thus unreliable. I’m literally reading the texts, writing a reaction and then posting for the world to see — something I’d NEVER do (not so quickly, anyhow)! I’m only saying all of this because I’ve been meaning to get that off my chest and plus Mailer’s text is highly political (he’s covering the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1968 and the anti-Vietnam war protests) and I get really sensitive and cautious about what I say or what’s being said whenever politics is the stage for conversation. Therefore, I’m only interested in discussing Mailer’s writing style.
He definitely has the word observant on lock. Watch as he describes a scene from the park:
For one of the next acts it hardly mattered — a young white singer with a cherubic face, perhaps eighteen, maybe twenty-eight, his hair in one huge puff ball teased out six to nine inches from his head, in one huge puff ball teased out six to nine inches from his head, was taking off on an interplanetary, then galactic, flight of song, halfway between the space music of Sun Ra and “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” buzzing fly, his sound an electric caterwauling of power come out of the wall…
See what I mean? His writing grounds us in place and we can picture (and smell and feel and hear) everything. This is what captivated me about Mailer’s style. His dedication to detail is admirable.
I’d also call him an acerbic observant. He certainly makes certain to give us subjective observation. For example, Mailer describes Mayor Daley (of Chicago) in the following manner:
It was as if the primitive powers of the Mayor’s lungs, long accustomed to breathing all variety of blessings and curses (from the wind of ancestors, constituents, and screaming beasts in the stockyards where he had once labored for a decade more) could take everything into his chest, mighty barrel of a chest in Richard J. Daley, 200 pounds, 5 feet 8 tall.
He’s slick. I’m imagining his personality came with the same slipperiness. I don’t know too much about Mailer’s personal life or overall character, but I’m going to take a guess and say he probably wasn’t a mass favorite. I’m going with that guess because his writing style is arrogant and sharp. But…when you’re a writer you have to give credit where credit is due and Mailer (at least in this piece) is definitely a strong chronicler.
After I write this reaction to Mailer’s text I’m going to go dig up more about him. I think it’s a beautiful thing to read someone’s work and get a little sense of who they might be off the page and without writing utensil. I’ll be taking deep notes on Mailer’s devotion to detail.
I’ll close with this: Now Mailer has me thinking more deeply about narration. Throughout the text I wondered why he chose to write in third person. My guess is that he wanted to run/stray away from the “I”. Why? Sometimes I feel like writers run away from the “I” when they are afraid or unreliable. Thoughts? I don’t want to share all of mine so fast, so soon.